"We both had such great memories of our grandmothers' homes with the porches and that kind of slower pace, where everybody's up and down the sidewalk, talking on the porch. We found that here." -Billy Simmons photography: salsa shop, fire by Scott Womack; all others by Elizabeth Lavin

McKinney: Small-Town Feel, Big-City Perks

Visit the charming downtown of the Collin County seat.

Billy Simmons and his partner, Marc Steib, grew up in small towns. After living in Richardson for more than a decade, they decided they wanted something different. One day, they stumbled upon downtown McKinney and fell in love. Now they’re as much a part of the neighborhood fabric as the historic downtown courthouse, which now houses the McKinney Performing Arts Center. The Collin County county seat recently was named the second-best American city of its size by Money magazine, and it has been in the top three fastest-growing cities every year for the past 12. But despite all the growth, the streets of downtown have managed to retain their charm. 

Location: Centered by McKinney’s downtown square, of course, and bordered by Louisiana, Tennessee, Virginia, and Kentucky streets.

Average home price: $100,000 to $575,000; average of $250,000.

Average lot size: Most of the homes sit on .26 acres.

Population: Roughly 3,000 people live in the historic district proper; 5,000 live in the greater downtown area.

Why downtown McKinney: “You see people walking downtown all the time,” says Tracey Collins, who moved there 20 years ago and now owns a shop right off the square. “I walk my dog downtown on the weekends, and lots of people have bicycles. We have front porches, so we spend a lot of time outside, talking with our neighbors. It’s very, very much about the community here.” Downtown is the hub of this suburb, hosting annual events like Oktoberfest, Dickens of a Christmas, Scare on the Square, and the Krewe of Barkus Mardi Gras Dog Parade, plus special one-time events like Hollie Cavanagh Day (the local who was third runner-up in a recent American Idol season). “McKinney is diverse with historical significance, a charming community, and has a quaint, small-town feel,” says real estate agent Jane Clark of Keller Williams Realty.

Where to go: Collins’ Diggin’ It garden shop, in the old Greyhound bus station, is a fun diversion. Chestnut Square Historic Village just off the square hosts a popular weekend farmers market. The Cadillac Pizza Pub is always a good time, especially during Tuesday’s singer-songwriter night. Gregory’s Bistro doesn’t have a liquor license, but never fear. Walk across the street to McKinney Wine Merchant, tell them what you’re having for dinner, and they’ll pair you up. Rick’s Chophouse is another local favorite, as is the European bistro La Misha. Lone Star Wine Cellars, inside the old Ritz Theatre building, offers tastings from local wineries on Friday nights. Although many of the small antiques shops have been replaced by restaurants in recent years, The Antique Company Mall remains, as do Heirlooms, Antique House, Chase Hall, Alternative Furnishings, and Patina Green Home and Market.

Addresses for sale:
206 N. Morris St.
907 W. Lamar St.
1201 Howell St.